CONVERSATION WITH RAYMOND E. FEIST
'It should have been Stars & Garters but I got
Broomsticks & Chicken Wings'
Welcome to Impulse Gamer Ray! We've been a huge fan
of your Midkemia books and can't wait to sink our teeth (or eyes) into your
latest and final book of the Rift War Saga, Magician's End.
Congratulations on Magician's End and
over 30 years of writing... that's quite a legacy you've left behind? Now that
you've had some time to digest the final book, what are your thoughts on it?
Being the guy who wrote the thing, I'm very subjective about the book with my
own internals and processes. You kind of sit back for awhile and have this
transition period. Initially you watch other peoples reactions to it and then
later on you can reassess. And then you're like, I wrote this 5 years ago and
that was me 5 five years ago but I wonder could I do that better today or what
direction would it take?
So right now, I lack perspective on the book and
really and haven't figured out whether I've done a good job or not but so far,
people are very nice to me. I've gotten a couple of negatives from people who
are kind of upset that the book isn't something else and I refuse to take
criticism on a book not being that... you know, it should of been stars and
garters but I got broomsticks and chicken wings. For the most part,
people have responded in a meaningful way and are pleased with the end result.
You know, I had a lot of stuff to wrap up!
So when you wrote the Magician, did you think
the series would become such a world wide hit?
When I wrote the Magician, I didn't even know if anybody would buy the
Magician or if I would be asked to do a second book. So no, the thing about
being a young writer which I was 30 years ago, is that you're really in the here
and now... you're in the flow. You're trying to get the deal. You're not even
thinking of what's coming down the road until your career gets ramped up and you
realise that's what I do, I am now a full-time professional writer. Then you
start thinking for the longer term.
By the time I really got a handle on all this stuff
which was when I basically changed publishers in the states is when I started
thinking in terms of this is actually turning into something. When I finished at
the previous publisher, the book was The King's Buccaneer and there was
suppose to be a sequel to the Buccaneer that never got written because they did
not want a sequel to another book.
So when I did the Serpent War that's when I thought
this would be the whole thing and I would then get around to doing other things
like another Faerie Tale or something else. But instead, every time I finished
up a book such as Shards of a Broken Crown, it was like what's next? Or
how about I do another dark fantasy and my editor would say no, what's next in
the Midkemian story? You know what's the next Rift War?
And by the time I finished the Serpent War,
I knew I was going to do all five [Rift Wars]. I wasn't quite sure on the length
at that point and I didn't realise we were going to do the Krondor Legacy based
on the gaming projects. I also didn't know I was going to do collaborations from
The Legends of the Rift War Series. So there's book number six which I
hadn't even anticipated working on at that time. So to answer your question,
succinctly no, I had no clue.
With Pug, is it safe to say some part of Pug is based on you? Is there some
psyche of you inside the character?
There's this myth that literally professors like to
flog that says there's always a character in the book that is a representation
of the writer. I think that's nonsense actually and you can write books with no
links to you at all. There are things about Pug that I admire and I think that
he's a little crazy in one regard. He's also very committed to do doing the
right thing and he does some things that I wouldn't be willing to do in terms of
Now, if I was in Pug's shoes, that might mean the
world is coming to end because Ray won't do what needs to be done but then
again, it's not about Ray but Pug. So I say that there is two aspects to your
question, which is... I wish I was clever as Arutha, I wish I was as charming as
Lorie, I wish I was as fiendishly diabolical as Jimmy... I would pick and choose
various things from the characters. The flip side is that lots of different
characters at different times present my world view but I try not to
editorialise by putting somebody on a soapbox and talk about the nature of
managing man or something. I'm writing fiction, ripping yarns, page turners, but
yeah there are things about the world such as how people treat each other that
creeps back in there.
I wrote a scene where Pug is helping Nicholas
overcome his club foot and to go chase after the people who were abducted and I
address this in a very psychologically approach that you won't get healed
because you are in love with your pain. You're in love with pain because it
gives you an excuse and the excuse is you're not going to try because you might
fail. Well that was a classic text book fear of success fear of failure
syndrome. So yeah, I believe that's a major problem for many of us so that's why
I threw that in there. There are little bits in all my books and you can go and
say ok... that's what Feist thinks and you'd probably be right. But I doubt
you'd identify most of them.
With the Magician's End, you've included some great cameos like Kulgan and
even Borric. Was there any other character you would have liked to revisit in
the final book?
That's a tough call because I've been looking at
different story vehicles to expand the characters. The stuff with Miranda and
Piper for instance is that I didn't want to be overt about this. I didn't want
to lecture the reader but if you look at these characters, the reality was that
those characters were being taught lessons by people who were important to them
and had an emotional impact on them. For Pug it was Kulgan and Macros, for
Magnus it was the woman who broke his heart and with Nakor, it was the other
woman that broke his heart.
But for Miranda, there wasn't really anybody but
Piper. And the reason that happened was because the people who really mattered
to Miranda were still around like Pug or Magnus and in the lesson of
perspective, it was taught by Piper. The only character that she would have
wanted to show up was Caleb but he wasn't the right voice for this perspective
so I left him out. I did what I did for meaning and there was no one else I
really want to bring back. I didn't want to turn this into the last day of
Survivor where they walk around and see all the people who have been voted
off the island. <laugh> I wasn't going to do that.
What was your biggest challenge in writing Magician's End?
Keeping track of a lot of stuff for one thing and finding the right resonance
and emotional balance. It's about when you get to the end, it should make sense
to you. It should also make sense to you on two levels. A cognitive sense, so
you should be able to look at it and say logically all that stuff that happened
had to have happened. This guy had to do that thing in order to achieve this
other thing over here and yeah it was messy but that's what had to be done. This
guy done the right thing over here and that paid off, yeah that's good.
But also, it needs to make sense emotionally. There
has to be this continuation and I care about these characters, they are
important to me and when they left the stage, they left the stage at the
appropriate moment and appropriate time. If they didn't leave the stage, then
sticking around makes sense and that's a little harder to achieve.
You know, it's a bit of a manipulation when you're
writing a novel, your trying to deal with feelings and you want certain kinds of
evocations but it's a very fine line between deftly setting things up for people
to feel emotional satisfied or trying to manipulate the reader. And secondly, I
really don't like writers who try to beat you over the head with something to
get an emotional response. Because of the subject matter in Magician's End,
this was the hardest book to write in that regard, finding the right emotional
So what that said, will you revisit this universe again or the wonderful
shores of Midkemia? Or will you move onto other things?
Okay... there's one Midkemia project left and that's the Chronicles of Pug
which was originally going to be an Atlas but I turned it around and morphed
it a bit. Now it's going to be a beautiful book with some amazing art by Steve
Stone and his crew in London. It will have some lovely maps, charts and things
by a European art house who are doing a wonderful job and some guy Feist who
wrote a bunch of words. You know, I think it's going to be a fun project that
will be out in the Fall, perhaps October or maybe early November.
I'm also working on the first book in a new series
called The War of Five Crowns and the first book is called King of
Ashes. It's going to be Feist, it's my brand of writing and it's what I do.
It's going to be the kind of writing I've been doing for 30 years, but it's also
going to be a different subject matter such as revenge.
It's about betrayal and looking for payback.
There's the old Asian proverb that when you plan revenge, first dig two graves.
One for the person you're going after and one for yourself because you have to
pay a price and that's what this whole story is about in this new series. It's
about someone who embarks on a revenge and faces all of the consequences of it.
I'm having a lot of fun plotting and writing this new book which is going to be
an interesting series.
When will King of Ashes be available?
Assuming I get home in timely fashion and survive Supanova in Perth
Australia <laugh>, I should give myself a day or two to get back into the
Westcoast, lots of coffee and then time in front of the word processor. I really
like to get this book handed in to make the publication deadline for sometime
Fairie Tale is easily one of the best horrors around. Have you ever been
approached to make that into a movie or any of your other novels?
Well actually we talk to people all the time about it but they haven't ended up
in movies. It's all Hollywood speak, studio politics and turnarounds. There's a
bunch of a stuff I could tell you how Hollywood works but the short version is
that a lot of books get optioned and deals get made but they still never make
movies or TV shows. I've had several deals along the way. Trust me if we ever
get one, it won't be kept a secret. We'll definitely make sure you know.
How do you keep track of all your characters? Do you have some amazing
Midkemia CODEX or something?
I actually don't. What I found out, at least with the Midkemian stuff is that
its been written over a 30 year period so I was able to remember the people I
needed to remember. This was because it was a transition from one to the next.
If you read all 30 back to back than I imagine you would need a score card. I
didn't write them all in 2 weeks but once in a while I would have to think about
a secondary character and where they appeared in the story. For the new
project, because it's a new world and 3 books, I am definitely keeping track of
all my characters and place names for the new project because I don't want to
Who's your favourite character and why?
I don't have one because I love all my characters. People love my characters and
it's funny how Pug is one guys most favourite character and somebody else loves
Jimmy the Hand and the third person loves Nakor, so its not always the same
character. But I'm their dad, their all like my brats to me. Sometimes they are
a pain in the neck and give me trouble, some are a little more fun to write than
others, but I don't have a favourite perse. You know, they're all really good
aspects of the writers tool set, they get the story told and the jobs done. But
as I said, I'll concede that Jimmy, Amos and Nakor, were always fun to write
because they had all the fun dialogue.
Lastly, any last words to your Australian fans?
Just this, I have been overwhelmed by the reception in Australia on this tour,
so thankyou. It's been way too long since I've been here and its a wonderful
country and I adore the people here. I'm already planning to sneak back here and
not tell you so I can have a holiday.
Thankyou Ray and all the best for your new series!